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Three drivers survive for surprise top-10s at Darlington

L to R: Michael McDowell (Photo: Dominic Aragon); Justin Haley and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Photos: Erick Messer)

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Three drivers survived an attrition-filled Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway and earned much-needed top-10 finishes.

Justin Haley finished third at Darlington after finishing 11th at Dover. Haley finally earned a top-10 finish after running in and around the top-10 and leading 19 laps at Dover.

“We had a good restart there at the end and we just kind of hung on. We didn’t have a fourth-place car, but it’s a great finish,” Haley said. “This was my best Cup finish besides that win. To do it here at Darlington, to get a fourth, it’s pretty special.”

Haley’s third-place finish was his first career top-5 finish at a non-superspeedway track in the NASCAR Cup Series and his fourth top-10 finish in the series.

Haley has three other top-10 finishes – at Daytona in Aug. 2021, at the Indianapolis road course in Aug. 2021 and at Daytona in July 2019 when Haley earned his first career NASCAR Cup Series win.

Photo by Erick Messer/TRE

Like Haley, Michael McDowell finally earned a top-10 finish Sunday at Darlington, in seventh, after showing some strength at Dover.

McDowell now has three top-10 finishes in the last four races and four overall after 12 races this season.

Although McDowell’s average finish is 3.2 positions worse after 12 races than last year (15.6 in ’21, 18.8 in ’22), he has four top-10 finishes in 12 races this year which equals his top-10 finish count at this point last year.

Photo by Dominic Aragon/TRE

McDowell made a late-race pass on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , who finished eighth at Darlington after finishing second at Dover.

“I felt like we had a really good strategy on that last long run, which put us in the top-five when the caution came out,” Stenhouse said. “I felt like we were in a really good spot to run top-five. Then the No. 4 got us in the fence there and I was really tight after that.”

Two weeks ago, after Talladega, Stenhouse was 31st in regular-season points – 115 points behind a playoff spot and two points out of being playoff-eligible.

After Stenhouse’s two top-10 finishes, he is 27th in points – 89 behind a playoff spot and playoff-eligible by 45 points.

“Two top-10s in a row is nothing to be too bummed about,” Stenhouse said. “That was a battle. We weren’t very good, but we made something out of it.”

The two top-10 finishes allowed him to make up 26 points on a playoff spot and 47 points on being playoff-eligible.

Photo by Erick Messer/TRE

The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the May 15 Advent Health 400 at Kansas Speedway.

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